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Biochem Mol Biol Educ. 2017 Sep;45(5):411-416. doi: 10.1002/bmb.21061. Epub 2017 Apr 25.

Examining student heuristic usage in a hydrogen bonding assessment.

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University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Lincoln, Nebraska.
Rochester Institute of Technology, Chemistry, Rochester, New York.


This study investigates the role of representational competence in student responses to an assessment of hydrogen bonding. The assessment couples the use of a multiple-select item ("Choose all that apply") with an open-ended item to allow for an examination of students' cognitive processes as they relate to the assignment of hydrogen bonding within a structural representation. Response patterns from the multiple-select item implicate heuristic usage as a contributing factor to students' incorrect responses. The use of heuristics is further supported by the students' corresponding responses to the open-ended assessment item. Taken together, these data suggest that poor representational competence may contribute to students' previously observed inability to correctly navigate the concept of hydrogen bonding.


Assessment and the design of probes for student understanding and learning; contributions from cognitive science and educational psychology to student learning; molecular graphics and representations; student conceptual and reasoning difficulties

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